About Bourbon Missouri
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 942 ft (287 m). Population 1,632 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Bourbon is town on Route 66 in Crawford County, in the central Missouri Ozarks foothills. (Map of Bourbon).
Bourbon "water" tank Route 66 in Bourbon Missouri
History of Bourbon
Check our Cuba - history post for information on the general history of this region. The first settler in the area was Uriah Burnes ca.1829. The first post office was opened by Richard Turner and his partner Lamar, who owned a store here, in 1853. It was named "Bourbon in the village of St. Cloud" because the townsite of St. Cloud was originally laid out here, but later it was moved further west. Turner's store sold all kinds of goods including "Bourbon", and this is the origin of a myth regarding its name:
The Name: Bourbon
The local legend is that the railroad workers went to Turner's store to buy the liquor as he was the first to sell it here, and that the place was known after it. However the store and post office predate the railroad by six years so the story is very likely untrue. Probably named after the French and Spanish royal families, of the Bourbon dynasty, which were sympathetic towards the American Revolution.
The small farming community and incorporated in 1907. Route 66 was aligned through the town in 1926, and several new stores opened to cater to the travelers: garages, service stations and cabins. This continued until 1953 when the new four-lane alignment of US 66 bypassed the old business district.
Bourbon the liquor
The Kentucky settlers of the late 1700s were Scots, Irish, Welsh, English and some French and Germans, produced a spirit distilled from corn, which later became known as Bourbon because it originated in this area, the old Virginia county of Bourbon, created in 1785 and which spanned most of what today is eastern Kentucky. Bourbon was named so in honor of the French Royal family (four years before the French Revolution).
New Bourbon, Missouri
The other Bourbon in Missouri, is an abandoned village 68 miles east of Bourbon (of Route 66) in Ste. Genevieve County Mo. named after the Royal Spanish and French dynasties. Its founder used that name to make it more friendly for French migrants.
Where to Lodge in Bourbon, Missouri
Accommodation and hotels close to Bourbon
> > Book your hotel in neighboring Sullivan
More Lodging near Bourbon along Route 66
More mtels and Hotels close to Bourbon
Hotels, Westwards in Missouri
- 11.5 miles Cuba
- 24 miles Saint James
- 34 miles Rolla
- 62 miles St. Robert
- 63 miles Waynesville
- 97 miles Lebanon
- 127 miles Marshfield
- 140 miles Strafford
- 149 miles Springfield MO
- 210 miles Carthage
- 228 miles Joplin
Heading West... Hotels & Motels in Kansas...
- 243 miles Baxter Springs
Further West... Hotels & Motels on Route 66 in Oklahoma...
- 261 miles Miami
Heading East in Missouri, more accommodation
- 5.5 miles Sullivan
- 20 miles Saint Clair
- 31 miles Villa Ridge
- 38 miles Pacific
- 47 miles Eureka
- 74 miles St. Louis
Hotels further East, in Illinois
Book your hotel in neighboring Sullivan
>> Check out the RV campgrounds close to Bourbon (Leasburg)
Weather in Bourbon
Bourbon has well marked seasons, which are the combination of humid continental and humid subtropical climates.
The winter (Jan), the average high is around 39°F (4°C) and the aveage low is a freezing 20°F (-7°C). The summer (Jul) average high is 89°F (32°C) with an average low of 68°F (20°C). Rainfall averages 44.5 in. (1.130 mm) yearly which ranges from 2.21 in (56 mm) in Jan. to 4.81 in (122.2 mm) in May. Snowfall is around 18.9 in. (48 cm), which falls from Dec. to Mar.
Bourbon is located in Missouri's "Tornado Alley" and Crawford County is struck by 7 tornados every year.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Bourbon
You can reach Bourbon along historic Route 66 and Interstate I-44 that links it with Springfield, Tulsa and Oklahoma City in the west and with Sullivan, Eureka and St. Louis in the east. US 63 runs through Rolla to the west and US 50 passes through Villa Ridge to the east.
Map of Route 66 in Bourbon, MO
Check out Bourbon on our Route 66 Map of Missouri, with the complete alignment and all the towns along it.
Map with the alignment of Route 66 through Bourbon
Click on this link > > US 66 alignment in Bourbon
Route 66's alignment in Missouri: the Historic Route 66 through Bourbon
Route 66 across Missouri
Historic U.S. highway 66, "Route 66" has been designated as an All-American Road and National Scenic Byway in the state of Missouri.
Click on the following link for a Full description of Route 66 across the state of Missouri.
Route 66 Sights in Bourbon
Landmarks and Places to See
Get your Kicks in Bourbon
Bourbon and its Route 66 attractions
Bourbon has the 1955 Circle Inn Malt Shop, Bourbon Lodge
a cafe, gas station and cabins; the 1890s Bourbon Hotel and 1940s Roedemeier Motel and Hi Hill Cabins.
The 1924 Route 66 Bridge and the classic landmarks: New and Old Water Tank with the word "Bourbon" on them. Plus The Old Oak Grove Roadside Park with its Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker and the town of Leasburg next to the Onondaga Cave, a State Park and National Natural Landmark.
Historic context, the classic Route 66 in Bourbon
"Missouri, a guide to the "Show Me" state" a guide published by the WPA in 1941 does not mention it, but Jack DeVere Rittenhouse's book, "A Guide Book to Highway 66", published in 1946 does mention it: "... Roedemeier garage; few cabins; gas; cafes) is a smaller village with its business district a few blocks off US 66 (Left)." Followed 2 mi. ewest by a Gas Station and another 2 mi. west, the road that led to "Onondaga Cave, another of the most popular caverns in Missouri... a deep, mysterious cavern, with an underground river...". He added that at the crossing with this side road to the cave (County Rd. H) there was "a gas station and two inns".
Sights in Bourbon
Start your tour in eastern Bourbon, where Old Route 66 turns sharply away from the railroad and heads west. Here, to your right is a Rock Archway:
Rock Arch farm entrance, Borubon MO, Route 66. Google. Click to enlarge image
Old Rock Arch
A maginific stone archway as an entrance to a farm. See the barn in the background.
Route 66 continues west so follow it doe 0.5 mi., to E. Pine St. and take a right, cross I-44 and, there, to your left, on the north side of the freeway is the Old Bourbon Tank:
Old Bourbon Tank
N. Service Rd. & Hwy. J
Old Tank in, Borubon MO, Route 66. Google, Click to enlarge image
No longer in use, it is kept as a landmark. Further west you can see the new tank. Retrace your steps back to Route 66 and turn right. Just ahead, where the highway almost touches I-44 and curves south (at Rotlen Ln.), you will see, to your left, a Classic Motel:
351 Old Route 66
It's postcard told ust that this was "For the Rest of your Life". It was ran by Kermit and Faye Roedemeier, and it was "Air Conditioned, Free TV, Hot Water Heat, Carpeted, Tile Tub and Shower Comb, Standard Service and Garage, Restaurant".
The building is still standing (See its Street View), and looks very much the same as it did in the 1950s postcard image below:
vintage postcard of the route 66 Roedemeier Motel in Bourbon Missouri, www.66postcards.com
Click to enlarge image
The now defunct Sweeney's Steak House was opened -under another name- by Kermit's father, Oscar 1920s, it was located in front of the spot where the motel was built in the 1940s. Later it was purchased by R.D. Sweeney who renamed it.
The old US 66 road heads southwards into the downtown area of Bourbon. At its intersection with Pine St., turn left along E Pine St. and, 0.1 mi. ahead, to your right you will spot the old Bourbon Hotel building:
"Old Bourbon Hotel" in Bourbon Missouri, Patrick Keller
251 E Pine St. Bourbon
The old railroad hotel is a red brick structure with three stories. It is abandoned and was built ca. 1890, facing the railway station. It tended to Route 66 traffic as the railway passengers declined after the 1930s. Click on image for Street View, and on the credits for more images of the old hotel.
Don't miss the "ghost sign" on the brick wall (A ghost sign is an old hand-painted advertisment that has survived on a building for a long time and not been removed or painted over).
Turn around and head back down Pine St. towards US 66, cross it and go west to the freeway, 0.3 mi. Here you can see the new Bourbon tank to your left, on the north side of I-44 (Exit. 218).
N Service Rd. & Paramount Dr.
This is the real water tank in town, and it is pictured above at the top of this page. Turn around and return to Pine and Route 66, take a right and just ahead, to your left is the iconic Circle Inn:
Circle Inn Malt Shop
171 S Old Highway 66, Bourbon
Old neon sign of the Circle Inn Malt Shop in Bourbon Missouri, Circle Inn Route 66
A simple building, box-shaped with a flat roof, large windows and concrete-block structure, typical of its time (1955). It advertised "Malts - Shakes Carry Out". It was built by Bud and Marie Ware and has been in the family since then, first ran by their son Bob Ware and now owned and operated by Joshua Ware.
Stop to eat or just check out the Route 66 photos and memorabilia that decorate it. Visit their Facebook.
Continue westbound (notice that Old Garage to your right) and visit another Classic Route 66 Cafe & Service Station with cabins:
834 Historic Route 66
It opened in 1932 and was run by Edith and Alex Mortenson. The complex initially had a café and three cabins, later a Phillips 66 gas station was added as well as another cabin. They sold it in the 1940s, during WW II. Now it is a private residence, but the place is still in good shape (the Café is the building to the east and the old service station to the west).
Old postcard of the Bourbon Lodge Cafe & Gas Station and Cabins in Bourbon, Missouri
Current view of the Bourbon Lodge Cafe & Gas Station and Cabins in Bourbon, Missouri
Hi Hill Cabins
1500 Historic Route 66
After Edith and Alex Mortenson sold the Bourbon Lodge, they moved close by, and built another service station with cabins barely 0.5 mi. west of their former location (see its Street View), some buildings are still standing. They sold it in 1947 to the Heitmans, who ran it until 1955, by then this old section of Route 66 had been bypassed by the freeway built to the north.
This marks the end of the city tour. But you can drive on, westbound to see some more local sights (see below):
Tours & Itineraries
West along Route 66 to Leasburg and Onondaga Cave State Park
1924 Route 66 Bridge
Concrete deck girder Bridge, with a plaque of the Missouri Highway Dept. "Bridge No. G.668 - 1924" on its SE face. It predates Route 66 by two years. It spans a branch of the Little Bourbeuse River just past Exit 214. (Street View from I-44).
Head west and at the intersection with MO-H, you can see Skippy's Restaurant and Bar. Take a right and 180 ft ahead to your left is the Roadside Park and Marker:
Old Oak Grove Roadside Park
It is closed, it was created here on the old alignment of Route 66 before the freeway was built in 1953; when the new highway opened, the acces drives were removed and as nobody could enter the park -or visit the Markers, (Blue star and State Historical) were moved up to Hwy. H
Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker
State Historical and Blue Star Markers
MO-H and US66 next to Exit 244 of I-44.
The marker was erected after WWII by the Federated Garden Clubs of Missouri and the Federated Garden Club of Leasburg together with the Missouri Dept. of Transportation. Its text reads: "BLUE * STAR - MEMORIAL HIGHWAY - A tribute to the Armed Forces that have defended the United States of America". This is the Street View of both markers with the bridge.
Turn around to return to Bourbon or visit Leasburg and Onondaga Cave:
Side Trip to Onondaga Cave
A 14 mi. Round trip from the Old Oak Grove Roadside Park (Map with directions), going through Leasburg:
Settled by Samuel Lea (hence its name) and originally named Harrison Station on the Frisco Railroad. In 1859 the post office was named Leasburg and the town dates back to 1869. Best known for the Caves (in plural because there are many):
Caves in the area: Cathedral Cave with stalagmites and stalactites. Missouri Caverns which opened in 1932 with onyx of a pinkish color and gravel paths. Formations (King's Canopy, Live Oak) and the Lost River. Sake Pit Cave, actually a collapsed cave or sink, with an underground lake and snakes among the ferns; and the most famous of them all: Onondaga Cave.
National and State Parks
Onondaga Cave State Park
National Natural Landmark
It was the first tourist cavern in Missouri, opening in 1904 -in those days you had to take the Frisco train to Leasburg and then by carriage to the caves. It has a boat along the Lost River and then gravel path in the cavern to see the formations with colored onyx: Onyx Forest, Wonder Room and Cathedral Hall. The name is Iroquois and is said to mean "spirit of the mountain". It became a state park in 1982.
Read more at the Park's Website (there is an RV campsite there too).
Visit Vilander Bluff for a panoramic view of the Meramec River, fish or canoe in the river.
Old Route 66 in Bourbon
The first "trail" in this region was created by deer and buffalo and deer, and much later the Illinois and Osage Indians used it. After 1680, French and English trappers and explorers trekked it into the Ozarks. It became the main road from St. Louis to Springfield and in the 1850s it serviced the military telegraph line from St. Louis to Fort Smith, being known as "The Wire Road".
By the early 1910s, cars had were popular in the Ozarks and the road was improved thanks becoming Missouri State Highway 14 from Saint Louis to Springfield.
From Bourbon to Hofflins
It is a short 8 mile drive from Bourbon to Cuba along Old Route 66 (which mostly runs along the south side of I-44).
In 1926 Route 66 was aligned along MO-14 through Bourbon and at that time it had a paved "Concrete or high type surface" east to Stanton. It was completely paved in Missouri by 1931 and it is shown in Pale Blue in the Map above. There is a section at Hobby Hut Rd. that remained cut off from the original alignment -now it is on the north side of I-44 (in Black in the map above) when the highway was upgraded to a four-lane freway in 1953. Another segment was cut off at Exit 214 to make space for the exchange there, causing the current alignment to curve around the exit at the old State Park.
1926 Map of Route 66 from St. James to St. Louis, Missouri, notice that this first map calls it "US 60", instead of US 66 (read more about this: Route 66 was born as US 60). Bourbon is in the lower left part of the map.
1950s: Four Lane Freeway
By the late 1940s Route 66 became too congested in all the towns and cities, so in 1953 the original road was bypassed by a divided dual carriageway highway which remained as US 66 until the late 1950s when it was also numbered as I-44. As mentioned above, Exit 214 west of town (at Co.Rd. H) obliterated a small segment of Route 66. West of this point the old road is still there, as the South Service Road of the Interstate.
1969 New roadbed
Beginning in 1967 the old four lane US-66 ⁄ I-44 Freeway was improved again in Missouri and the old US 66 was upgraded to Interstate standards. A state petition in 1962 to name the highway I-66 was denied by the AASHTO as that number had been used already.
Finally in 1972 the whole of Route 66 had been replaced by the Interstate system and in 1974 it was decided that the whole of US 66 from Chicago to Joplin would be eliminated and decertified. However this was delayed until I-55 in Illinois was completely brought up to Interstate standards. The signs were removed in 1977 but even then, the last segment of the old Route 66 in Missouri was bypassed in 1981.
> > See the previous segment Sullivan to Bourbon (east)
> > See the next segment Hofflins to Cuba (west)
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